The Day at the Lake
by Rake La Sly
Sylar liked the lake. The
black surface shimmered as the water stretch on into the thick woods on the other bank. The sky was overcast and a strong
wind blew water vapour off of the surface and onto the shoal banks. No birds sang overhead, no crickets chirped. Silence was
the only constant on the lake.
She liked nothing better than
standing on the pier and thinking. She also loved exploring the local woodland and the adventures she shared with no one else.
She still believed that there was cursed treasure nearby from smugglers running from the west. It was supposedly near a cave,
deep in the woods where the light fails to reach the forest floor. The bandits could still be there. Guarding their stolen
bounty from others forever. Sylar wished that she would be able to find the cave. One day the treasure would be hers.
The lake was far enough away
from her Grandmothers house for her liking. The house smelt like rotten cabbages and rotting wood. Everyone talked in Russian
as well. That was expected though, and she knew it almost fluently. In her mind she was better than her tutor. It was just
the awful screeching from the women and the loud arguing of the men that made her not bother. She didn’t even try to
pronounce the words right, which made them bellow even louder.
They complained at her mother,
for not raising her better. Even though she was the daughter of the most affluent family in the world, they did not think
anything of that. Rich and powerful but still made to visit her mother’s impoverished living family. They were given
money. The lot had their grubby hands on enough of it, but they never spent it wisely.
Her other Grandmother, Eden,
was infinitely better to go visit. She also enjoyed peace, and Eden read her stories. Adult stories, not the stupid children’s
books her parents still bought her. Though Sylar was nine years old, and still very much a child, she certainly did not want
to be treated like one. The two were already part way through Hamlet, which had captivated her from the very first line. Eden
did not tolerate interruptions, so Sylar had to try to keep up with what was being said when she was sat in the chairs with
her good posture and in her nice dress, listening to the ancient stories.
The lake was her refuge away
from the household that Sylar was forced to visit twice a year. This time though, she was not alone. She had been spotted
leaving and told that she should take her cousin and go play with her. Both of their mothers had also decided to go, to keep
an eye on them. She resented the fact that they thought she could not look after herself. So she had stomped off to the lake,
her three year old cousin, Vesna, following and chattering at their mothers.
How could she enjoy the tranquillity
when there were others there making noise. They wouldn’t even understand about the treasure, let alone let her go find
Anya, Sylar’s aunt,
always seemed disinterested with her own daughter. She ignored her in favour of complaining to her sister about the little
village she was trapped in and the idiot who tied her there for the rest of her life. Sylar actually liked Sergai, Vesna’s
father. He was quiet and fun to be around. He had been the one who told her about the bandits and the treasure from the old
kings of Russia. Revolution and adventures captured her and held her hostage to the world he painted with his words. She did
not consider these childish tales as well. Too much gore and danger for a regular nine year old, she would think.
Sylar began running once the
lake came into sight. She heard her mother call to her not to go too far head without them, but she didn’t care. Out
of breath, she came to a stand still once her feet hit the shoal banks. She walked along the waters edge slowly, careful not
to let the water touch her shoes. It felt like she was walking on the edge of something dangerous, like a cliff that descended
into an abyss. Though the lake drew her, she knew it was dangerous.
A small laugh near by drew
her attention to her cousin, who was crouched down on the bank. Sylar walked over to take a look at what she was looking at.
She leaned over to see a small frog sitting on a rock. Vesna looked up and pointed at it.
“Frog.” The little
girl said in Russian, smiling in satisfaction at naming the animal. It jumped of the rock, which caused the little girl to
shriek with laughter, but hid behind Sylar and watch cautiously. Vesna wasn’t so bad. She wasn’t noisy like the
other toddlers. Also, she was accustomed to only getting attention from her father and Sylar so she didn’t tend to bother
“It won’t hurt
you,” she said, as she leant down and picked it up, “see?”
Taking her word for it, the
little girl peered into the cupped hands. Vesna held out a finger and stroked its back, then recoiled at the feel of the amphibian’s
skin. She smiled up at Sylar, which she shared.
“Let’s put it
back so it can find its friends.” Sylar said, placing it back on the ground. Once it was back on the ground, it leaped
away from the lake and towards the trees. She would follow it in a bit, once Vesna was distracted and not liable to follow.
Sylar stood up straight and
walked over to the old pier. The rickety planks groaned under her foot as she strode confidently towards the edge. The dim
foot steps of Vesna echoed after her. She rolled her eyes at her little shadow and kept walking. She shouldn’t have
let the little girl come on the pier, but she wasn’t her carer and the child would know better than to dive in.
Standing above the pier, above
the lake, she felt like she was hovering over the forbidden. Being surrounded by the water, but above it. It made her feel
superior. She peered over the edge. She could see no life at all. No fish, no insects. The water looked like a mirror, full
of overcast sky and ripples. Not even any wind passed by. It seemed that time stood still for the lake. Sylar wondered if
anyone had been in the waters. If they had survived or were enveloped into the darkness.
A scream pierced the air,
followed by a splash, and Vesna was gone. Sylar scrambled towards she Vesna had been and looked over the side to see the little
girl splashing in the water.
shouted, but both her and her aunt were no where to be seen. “Mother!” She dropped to her belly and tried to reach
over the side to the tot, but Vesna had already gone under.
Quicker than she had time
to think, she took a deep breath and jumped in. The freezing cold water shocked her system and she had to resurface to recover
oxygen. She paddled for a while, wondering if she would ever be able to save Vesna. She took one final breath and dived down
in the way her instructor had taught her.
Though the water had shimmered
black on the surface, the visibility was good and she could see Vesna tangled up in some reeds at the bottom. The lake was
surprisingly deep, and she wondered whether she would be able to reach the little girl.
She kicked and pushed her
way down until she grasped Vesna’s hand. The little girl was unconscious. Sylar tugged frantically, her lungs burning
and head spinning. She had to save her; she couldn’t go back without her. The black reeds seemed to be creeping around
the limbs that had snared them. She tugged harder and harder.
Please, she thought, please
give me my cousin back.
Suddenly she felt pressure
around her wrist and saw the reeds wrapping around her. They were slimy and warm. Who had answered her? Her own pessimism
would not have given her an answer.
She didn’t even know
if it had been internal.
Never letting go of Vesna,
Sylar kicked her feet and wrenched her arm from side to side. She had been under for so long. Surely she should have run out
of breath. She realised that the burning in her lungs was gone. The coldness went away as well, but the reeds, or whatever
they were, remained.
Please let her go, she thought.
Let us go!
The voice was definitely not
hers now. It was inside her head though. She frantically struggled against the bonds that were tightening and creeping up
her arm with every second that went past. She had no time to question whose the voice was.
She’s going to die.
She answered, not knowing if there was actually anyone to bargain with.
Little children shouldn’t
play in the water. This one is mine now.
The dread filling her at the
words hade her struggle harder. Whatever it was, wanted Vesna. She would not give in. She could not let her die down here
in the clutches of a malevolent sauce.
No she’s not! She belongs
to us! Please, give me her! Please let her live! Still not letting go. She felt the binds, more like tentacles,
creeping around her, binding her as tight as Vesna. She was just as trapped as the little body was. Surely Vesna had been
under too long to still be alive. But so had she, and she was pleading with… she had no idea what. Maybe they were already
What do I get in return? To
give up a prize like this?
Anything, she pleaded, you
can take me. Just not my cousin. She’s too young to die! At this point, desperation saw fit for her to say anything.
I wouldn’t let her die.
What good would a corpse do to me? I need a living being.
She wasn’t dead! Sylar
still needed to get Vesna away from it and back to the surface.
Take me then. I’ll stay
with you. She said, at that point panic and desperation made her beg more than she even had in her life.
Stay? No no no. You are going
to help me leave this place. The deal is done.
Before she could object or
even think, a current of water seemed to surround them, disorientating them. It felt like what being caught in a riptide would
be like. The pressure on her lungs returned and she could feel herself burning to breath. Her head felt like it was about
to explode, she had to fight to stay awake. She couldn’t let go of Vesna, she tightened her grip on the little arm as
she fought the current.
She began to feel sliding
over her skin. It felt like the things that had bound her were creeping over her body. Her headache began to thump and she
swore that she could feel something entering her mind.
She didn’t realise she
had blacked out until she hit the surface. She gasped, her throat raw and stinging as the air rushed in. She went under again
and resurfaced, and managed to pull Vesna up.
She heard shouting, splashing.
She tried to look around, but the world was still spinning. All she could see was the overcast sky and water. She wondered
if she would have the energy to pull them to the shore.
Hands grabbed her around her
waste and kept her above the surface. She turned to
see her mother. Her make up was smudged, and she looked to be crying,
thought the water washed away any tears she might have had. The world became clearer now that she knew she wasn’t going
to go under again.
“Vesna!” A male
voice shouted. Sylar then saw Sergai approaching them. He took a hold of his daughter and looked at her for a moment, possibly
for signs of life. When he realised that she wasn’t breathing, he began to swimming back to the peer and over to the
steps. She could see Anya, leaning over the side with her arms out to take her child out of the water.
“Are you ok my baby?”
Her mother voice broke her from the observations, keeping a firm hold of her and guiding her back to the same steps. Nikita
repeated the question when Sylar failed to answer.
She answered curtly. She tried to paddle, but her energy was depleated.
It took less than a minute
to get out of the freezing water and onto the peer. Nikita immediately ran to Anya and Sergai, who was trying to revive Vesna.
An eternity seemed to pass before the little lifeless body coughed up water and began crying. Fresh tears ran down Anya’s
face as she picked up her daughter and held her close to her chest. Sergai finally broke down and sobbed.
Sylar felt none of the emotions
she thought she should. She had been so desperate for Vesna to be rescued and to be safe. She even talked to stupid voices
in her head. Where was all that emotion now? She wondered as she observed the situation distantly. All she could do was watch
the outpouring of human affection passively and think about how much her head hurt. She felt tired and stilled. The world
suddenly felt distant and unfamiliar, like there was a barrier between her and other life. Everything else on the outside
didn’t concern her anymore. She was above it.
“What happened baby?”
Nikita asked her as they walked up to her. She knelt down to hug Sylar, who didn’t return it.
“We were on the pier.
She fell in.”
“Why would you take
her onto the pier?” Anya cried, over the sobbing of Vesna.
“She followed me. It’s
not my job to look after her.” Sylar replied. She found herself under the surprised stare of the three adults. The only
sounds were Vesna’s quietening whimpers.
“She’s just in
shock. We need to get them both to the doctors before they both freeze to death.” Nikita said, glancing between Sergai
and Anya. Sylar was not a foolish child who didn’t understand adults. She hated that everyone tried to hide things from
“Thank you, for saving
her.” Sergai said and hugged her. Yet again she did not return the affection. Anya threw Sylar a glare before walking
at a hurried pace to where Sergai’s car seemed to be parked. That must have been why there were no adults around earlier.
Nikita took Sylar’s
hand and lead her to the car. Sylar turned to look at the lake one more time. She looked overhead and saw a bird swoop by,
singing aloud, as if signalling to other life that that it was safe to return.
The shimmering waters no longer
held a fascination, no longer called her. Now it was nothing, ugly, a prison. She was now a different person. She knew that
much. Whatever had happened, it had changed her. Suddenly bandits and kings didn’t interest her. She had gone searching
for treasure that day. What she did find though, she didn’t know if it was good, or if it was truly cursed.
La Sly 2008